An introduction to the beguiling melodies of maftirim
In Turkey and Greece, as far back as the 16th century, groups of cantors and religious figures used to gather in the early morning, before prayer services, to sing devotional poetry in Hebrew. This gave rise to a distinct and complex form of music called maftirim, which only the most talented men could master.
These small gatherings were part of a broader musical exchange under the Ottoman empire: Muslim Sufi mystics would come to synagogue on the Sabbath to listen to the maftirim. And the Jewish maftirim singers would visit Sufi lodges for musical inspiration.
Professor Edwin Seroussi, director of the Jewish Music Research Center at Hebrew University, is one of the key scholars involved in unearthing, and reviving, the forgotten musical tradition of maftirim. Daniel Estrin spoke with him in Jerusalem about his journey of discovery, which led him to record some of the last surviving maftirim singers.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.